More Pressure on Babson Over Iran Joke Firing

January 24, 2020

Babson College is facing new pressure to reinstate the staffer and adjunct faculty member it terminated earlier this month over his joke about Iran. In a letter to Babson, the free speech group PEN America wrote that against "a national backdrop in which punishments for speech are chilling open discourse, this draconian outcome risks compounding the constrictions on our public discourse." As an institution of higher learning, the letter says, "Babson should be on the side of defending free thought rather than punishing it." The letter's 160-some signers include academics Judith Butler, Geoffrey R. Stone and Steven Pinker and writers Joyce Carol Oates, Jonathan Franzen and Salman Rushdie. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education previously defended Asheen Phansey, the former employee, and his right to "hyperbole."

Phansey worked at Babson as director of sustainability and an instructor of sustainable entrepreneurship. He says that Babson fired him for jokingly writing on his Facebook page that Iran should respond to President Trump’s recent threat to bomb 52 targets of cultural significance by making an American target list of its own -- including a Kardashian family residence and the Mall of America. Babson said in a statement Thursday that it conducted a "prompt and thorough investigation" of the post, which "does not represent the values and culture of the college." Phansey is no longer an employee, and Babson "condemns any type of threatening words and/or actions condoning violence and/or hate."

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